Political MoJo

AK-47 Manufacturer Fires Back at US Over Sanctions

| Fri Jul. 18, 2014 11:56 AM EDT
Everybody's favorite assault rifle.

When the US imposed more sanctions on Russia this week, some US gun owners assumed the move was a targeted assault on their constitutional rights. It's not. But according to Rostec, the Russian government-owned company whose Kalashnikov subsidiary makes the AK-47, the assault rifle will be much harder to come by for US customers. After Rostec was added to the sanctions list, it fired back. "For Kalashnikov...the US is an important market for selling arms," a spokesman told ITAR-TASS, a Russian government news agency. "It should be noted that the Kalashnikov products are very popular in the US... This means that the sanctions the US Administration has imposed on Kalashnikov contravene the interests of US consumers."

AK-47's, which are cheap and durable (though not terribly accurate), are the world's most popular gun. As many as 100 million have been produced since its debut in 1947—by Kalashnikov and a multitude of imitators in China and Eastern Europe. Kalashnikov's fully-automatic models are illegal to own in the United States without a special permit. But the semi-automatic version are regulated under the same patchwork of state and local laws that regulate hunting rifles. In recent years, as the Russian military has reduced its orders, Kalashnikov has shifted its focus away from the full-auto weapons and toward semi-automatic models for the gun enthusiast market in the United States.

Kalashnikov's Russian logo Wikimedia Commons

The new sanctions cut off the supply of AK-47s from the factory source, but gun stores with an old inventory and gun owners with one to spare are free to go about their business as before. The only caveat is that Kalashnikov can't make any money off the deal.

In an unsigned statement posted on its website, Rostec notes that its analysts are conducting a "full study" of the impact of the new sanctions on its business, and argues that sanctions are putting its partnerships with US businesses at risk: "Now it is possible to say that the measures taken by Washington will have a negative impact on the cooperation of several Russian and American companies, threatening to undermine mutual trust," the company maintains.

The AK issue came up during a State Department media briefing on Thursday. Asked if the Kalashnikov sanctions would affect customers in the US, spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded, "We take into account the impact on the United States, on US businesses and consumers, and certainly we feel that peace and political stability and respect for international law are of critical importance to the global economy and to US businesses."

Kalashnikov's exclusive US importer, RWC Group, has not yet issued a statement.

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GOP Senate Candidate: I Forgot About My Bank Account With Oodles of Money in It

| Fri Jul. 18, 2014 11:45 AM EDT
Terri Lynn Land speaks at the Michigan Republican convention in 2010.

Terri Lynn Land, the Republican candidate for US Senate in Michigan, has given nearly $3 million to her own campaign. That's perfectly legal—candidates can give as much as they want to their campaigns.

Here's the trouble: On the financial disclosure forms she filed last year and this May with the Federal Election Commission, Land reported she has assets of only about $1.5 million. So how could she give herself twice as much?

Don't fear, Land fans; her staff has an explanation. The other money was in a joint checking account she has with her husband Dan Hibma, a millionaire real estate developer. On Friday, the Land campaign told the Detroit Free Press (which broke this story) that in 2013 she "inadvertently" omitted the account from her disclosure form and in 2014 she "inadvertently" listed the account as solely owned by Hibma. In other words, Land claims she forgot about an account she had with an enormous amount of money in it—even as she was using that money to fund her campaign.

The Land campaign has not said how much money is in that joint checking account. "A candidate suddenly coming into possession of several million dollars raises questions," Paul Ryan, a campaign finance expert at the Campaign Legal Center (no, not that Paul Ryan), told the Free Press.

As Michigan's secretary of state from 2003 until 2011, Land was responsible for enforcing the state's campaign finance laws.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 18, 2014

Fri Jul. 18, 2014 9:12 AM EDT

Sgt. Louis Wood pays his respects to Sgt. Thomas Z. Spitzer, who was killed in combat in Afghanistan. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan)

GOP Congressman Says Central America Too Dangerous for Congressmen—But Not for Kids

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 6:38 PM EDT

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), who spent the weekend visiting Honduras and Guatemala with six other members of Congress, reaffirmed his belief on Wednesday that the ongoing humanitarian crisis along the southern border is to send migrants home—even though he found his host city too dangerous to go outside.

Per the Santa Fe New Mexican:

Congressman Steve Pearce said Wednesday that most immigrants from Central America who are crossing illegally into the United States are driven by economic reasons, not fear of physical danger in their homeland.

...

Pearce said he and the rest of the House delegation that visited Honduras and Guatemala did not venture from their hotel very often because of the dangers, but the message they received in both countries was consistent: "Send back our children."

So to recap: Tegucigalpa is too dangerous for grown members of Congress to leave their downtown hotel rooms, but a perfectly fine place to send an eight-year-old kid. (According to a press release, the congressional delegation did leave their hotel to visit an outreach center funded by the US government. They also met with the president and first lady of Honduras.) Meanwhile, not content with the results of Pearce's investigation, a rival Congressional delegation, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), is en route to Central America now. We'll see if they find it safe enough to walk around.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 17, 2014

Thu Jul. 17, 2014 12:20 PM EDT

A guided-missile destroyer departs Pearl Harbor for deployment as a child plays with a radio-controlled boat at Dog Beach. (US Navy photo by Canadian Armed Forces Sgt. Matthew McGregor)

64 Percent of Women Scientists Say They've Been Sexually Harassed Doing Fieldwork

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 11:50 AM EDT

Most women working in the sciences face sexual assault and harassment while conducting fieldwork, according to a study released Wednesday that is the first to investigate the subject.

The report surveyed 516 women (and 142 men) working in various scientific fields, including archeology, anthropology, and biology. Sixty-four percent of the women said they had been sexually harassed while working at field sites, and one out of five said they had been victims of sexual assault. The study found that the harassers and assailants were usually supervisors. Ninety percent of the women who were harassed were young undergraduates, post-graduates, or post-doctoral students.

"Our main findings…suggest that at least some field sites are not safe, nor inclusive," Kate Clancy, the lead author of the study, said in a statement. "We worry this is at least one mechanism driving women from science."

Many university science programs require students to complete fieldwork. Those who do work in the field are more likely to receive research grants. Consequently, women scientists "are put in a vulnerable position, afraid that reporting harassment or abuse will risk their research and a professional relationship often critical to their academic funding or career," the Washington Post noted.

The study comes as Congress investigates the response of US colleges to campus sexual harassment and assault. Two out of five colleges and universities have not conducted any sexual assault investigations in the past five years, according to a recent survey by the office of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Men vastly outnumber women in the sciences. According to Census data, women make up only about a quarter of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

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Todd Akin Is Still Talking About Rape—and Suggests Bill Clinton Is a Rapist

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 11:12 AM EDT

Todd Akin won't stop talking. And he won't stop talking about rape. On Thursday, the former Republican Missouri congressman and failed Senate candidate—best known for suggesting that the female body could self-terminate a pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape"—appeared on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown to talk about his new book, Firing Back, and to explain why he was totally right about the rape thing. During the 10-minute spot, he insisted that "legitimate rape is a law enforcement term." (He did not cite a source for this.) And he pointed out that Bill Clinton was accused of committing rape and "assault on women," yet the former president was applauded when he delivered the keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic convention. "Seems to me, it's a Democratic war on women," Akin remarked.

Contradicting his comment about a woman's ability to "shut that whole thing down"—that is, to prevent conception following a rape—Akin claimed that he "had a number of people" working on his Senate campaign who "had been conceived in rape."

Watch:

GOP Congressional Candidate Mistakes YMCA Campers for Migrant Kids

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 10:27 AM EDT

Arizona congressional candidate Adam Kwasman was at a protest of a new shelter for migrant children when he got word that a busload of kids was headed in the protesters' direction. Kwasman, a Republican state lawmaker, raced toward the small yellow school bus. He gave a breathless account of what he saw to a local news crew: "I was able to actually see some of the children in the buses, and the fear on their faces. This is not compassion."

But the local news crew had bad news for Kwasman: the kids on the bus weren't migrants. They belonged to the Marana school district and were headed to the YMCA's Triangle Y Camp. Reporter Will Pitts said he could see the children laughing and taking photos of the news crews with their iPhones. "Do you know that was a bus with YMCA kids?" Brahm Resnick, of the Arizona Republic asked Kwasman. Kwasman replied, "They were sad too."

Kwasman is one of three Republican candidates running for the nomination in Arizona's first district. Watch the full video of his interview with Resnick here.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 16, 2014

Wed Jul. 16, 2014 9:59 AM EDT

The Village of Willowbrook Parks and Recreation department hosts a "Touch a Truck" community event where around 300 children interacted with military vehicles provided by the US Army on display in Illinois. (US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

Watch Jon Stewart Try to Get Hillary Clinton to Admit She's Running For President

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 8:23 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton is running for president. She has not officially announced this yet because it's 2014 and tradition dictates that prospective candidates pretend to "weigh all their options" and "talk about it with their family" for a few years before actually coming out and declaring. Presumably she'll announce sometime next autumn. Anyway, she's running for president.

Her most recent non-campaign campaign stop was on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night. Clinton came on nominally to talk about her new memoir "Hard Choices" which documents her four years as Secretary of State in the Obama administration. “It’s an incredibly complex and well-reasoned, eyewitness view to the history of those four years," Stewart begins, "and I think I speak for everybody when I say, no one cares. They just want to know if you’re running for president.”

What followed was a very entertaining game wherein Stewart tried to trick her into betraying her presidential ambitions. (When Stewart asks whether she'd like her next office to come in a particular shape, Clinton replies, "You know, I think that the world is so complicated, the fewer corners that you can have, the better.”)

Watch the whole extended interview. It's pretty great.